Banerjee insists govt. must acquire the lands after paying compensation
The Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee on Friday made it clear that he would never permit the State government to establish court complexes on requisitioned land taken on rent or lease.
He said every court complex must be established only on properties that had been acquired in accordance with law after paying a fair compensation.
Presiding over the first Division Bench along with Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, he told Advocate General Vijay Narayan that the government must give up the idea of establishing an integrated collectorate complex, district court complex and an office for the Superintendent of Police for Kallakurichi district by taking land on lease.
When a public interest litigation petition filed by activist Rangarajan Narasimhan was listed for hearing, the A-G told the court that the government actually wanted to acquire 14.09 hectares of waste land owned by the Ardhanareeswarar temple in Veeracholapuram but the locals objected to acquisition and hence it was decided to take it on lease.
Pointing out that the temple was in a shambles now due to maladministration by its erstwhile trustees and was earning a revenue of less than ₹10,000 per annum, the A-G said the government had now come up with a proposal to take its land on lease for a monthly rent of ₹1.3 lakh and also deposit three years of rent amounting to ₹46.80 lakh in advance.
The quantum of rent would be revised every three years in accordance with the market and the amount would be paid to the temple promptly. Apart from this, the government had also decided to renovate the temple at a cost of ₹2.7 crore in order to give it a fresh lease of life, the A-G told the court and wondered what objection the litigant could have to it.
He also said the Collector went scouting for a suitable land in 53 revenue villages within a radius of 10 km from Kallakurichi town and found that no government land spread over five acres was available in 31 villages. Though such lands were available in other 22 villages, they were found to be unsuitable due to reasons such as absence of approach road and so on.
At present, the Collector’s office was functioning temporarily from Agriculture Regulated Marketing Complex godown, the A-G said and impressed upon the necessity to vacate the godown as early as possible since Kallakurichi was predominantly an agriculture district where 15,938 tonnes of agriculture produce worth ₹69.91 crore was traded in 2019-20.
In reply, Mr. Narasimhan told the court that the Ardhanareeswarar temple was in a shambles now because the State had failed to appoint trustees for it since 1998. He said a Fit Person (Inspector of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department at Ulundurpet) was managing the temple now and it had been mismanaged for years.
After hearing both sides, the judges said the court would ensure that the interests of the temple were well protected and that it would even constitute an independent committee to ensure a fair compensation. “We will consider the temple property as our property,” the Chief Justice said.